With an unwavering commitment to driving forward, it’s no wonder that Aston Martin is one of the world’s most respected luxury automotive brands. I recently had the pleasure of virtually sitting down and speaking with Pete Freedman, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Aston Martin, to talk about how the company is exploring the use of virtual and mixed reality technologies to streamline business processes and ultimately enhance their already legendary customer experience.
During our conversation we discussed how Aston Martin has used virtual reality technology to date and what they have planned. In addition, we also touched on how their workstation partnership with Lenovo has enabled them to explore new bleeding edge mixed reality technologies from our partners, like XR/VR headset provider Varjo, to deliver a never-before seen immersive experience of their first luxury SUV – the Aston Martin DBX. This new experience wrangles over 10 million polygons to create an ultra-realistic DBX engagement for customers, designers and dealers alike.
Q: Tell me more about how Aston Martin started using virtual reality (VR) initially?
A: We first started using VR for our Valkyrie program. The Valkyrie is a world leading hyper car first launched in 2016. With virtual reality, we’ve been able to create a customer experience where customers are able to specify their car, choose different colors and trim levels, and even help them perceive what their car will feel like when they take delivery of it in the coming future.
Q: What, in particular, led to or influenced Aston Martin’s decision to adopt a VR and mixed reality (XR) solution?
A: As you can imagine, the challenges of the last twelve months with COVID have certainly accelerated how quickly we wanted to adopt virtual and mixed reality beyond our initial application of it. Previously, our customers would visit their dealerships to specify their cars and walk through that process in-person with our team. But COVID has restricted their ability to do this. We really feel that VR/XR gives us an opportunity to take that experience directly to them, which is part of the reason we’re embracing the technology more quickly.
I think the other reason is for our designers, who as you can expect, haven’t been able to work as closely as they normally would. Pre-pandemic, we’d have a design studio full of designers walking around clay models and actually feeling what it’s like to work with those models. That hasn’t been possible due to the pandemic, so we’re looking at how XR and VR can be used to allow our design teams to collaborate remotely, and still be able to design our next-generation of cars just as effectively as before.
Q: As technology continues to evolve, how does Aston Martin plan to expand their use of VR and XR throughout the business?
A: We plan to further expand the use of this new experience into other aspects of our business, like design, engineering and more. One of the key areas where we’d like to use the technology is in our dealer training to run better familiarization sessions for our dealers, explain color and trim to them earlier in the process, and take them through real product training without needing a physical car onsite. Beyond that, with improved graphics, our design teams will be able to iterate more quickly earlier in the process rather than moving forward with creating costly models. Lastly, we also expect to further expand our use of immersive technologies within our marketing function – including developing graphics for the dealerships, taking our cars to our customers in a virtual environment, or as this technology becomes more portable, potentially even taking it into the homes of our VIP customers to give them an immersive experience without them ever having to leave their homes.
Q: With so many different variations of VR and XR, why has Aston Martin adopted ProVR Solutions from Lenovo?
A: We’ve worked with a number of VR solutions in the past, but the ProXR solution from Lenovo has really changed the game in terms of graphics and image fidelity. They’ve made such a big step forward with the ThinkStation P620, equipped with NVIDIA’s new RTX A6000 GPU, that they’ve given us the confidence to start using VR and XR more in front of our customers.
As virtual and mixed reality adoption continues to expand across Aston Martin, the company will be able to experience new levels of productivity and efficiency, while ultimately driving an enhanced customer experience.